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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Is this really what we want for the Church of England?

"The way Finns feel about the Church is changing faster than ever, as is the Church’s position in the community. A generation ago, 90 percent of the Finnish population held membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, whereas now the number has shrunk to about 78 percent and is falling by about one percentage point annually. Ties between Church and State have also decreased....While the role of the Church as an institution has weakened, its social role has grown. This becomes apparent in the reinforcement and expansion of diaconical work. For instance, the Church represents one of the most important providers of family counselling, and plays a central role in professional crisis work." - The 'down-to-earth' Finnish Church.

 It may be Finnish but is it British? Their 'diaconical work' is most laudable but it is neither necessary nor desirable to turn the Holy Priesthood into an organisation for social workers in vestments. Surely the highest calling of every woman is superior to that of man in motherhood and the nurture of our children but in the women's movement Mary's role in the incarnation is made to appear insignificant compared to the weight given to the example of  Mary Magdalene who is constantly extolled as 'the Apostle to the Apostles' because of her messengerial role having witnessed the Resurrection before conveying the message to the Apostles who were specifically appointed by Christ rather than inferred to bolster a case for lack of evidence.

There is nothing motherly about the campaign for women bishops. The vindictive statement by WATCH in their call for a single clause measure for women bishops totally misrepresents the position of orthodox Anglicans: "Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops. Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed...." I would be the first to apologise if I misinterpret their allegations but it is difficult to see how the oppressed could be satisfied with the terms of the oppressor simply on the oppressors' say so. I wasn't present at any of the discussions but the Bishop of Ebbsfleet was. His more credible account of 'The General Synod Vote on Women Bishops' is given on the See of Ebbsfleet web site here.  

Orthodox Anglicans have endured many false charges of misogyny, even when the vote in the House of Laity was lost with a large tally of women's votes. As an example of the many women in the church who simply suffer in silencemy wife was deeply hurt and bitterly disappointed on being abandoned by Abp Rowan when he gave his response to the vote. It is difficult to understand why he recognised hurt only in the strident women of WATCH. On reading Bp Jonathan Baker's account Mrs Briton's comment was, "Why couldn't Rowan have said that?" before adding "+Jonathan has been far too charitable to the women of WATCH." - Apparently one has to be a woman to understand women.

Theoretically there is a danger in the strategy of WATCH but no doubt they have either made the necessary calculations or are confident in their ability to manipulate the authority of the church. If the current injustice to a significant minority is made worse, more people may be encouraged to vote against the new measure but like a second-rate trade union, having failed to stuff Synod with sufficient support to assure victory, the call now is to change the rules to give them that assurance. There has already been a no confidence vote in the Diocese of Bristol and a hypocritical call by the Chair of the House of Clergy to oust the Chair of the House of Laity. 

The final absurdity in this process is the claim that we have to be responsive to the priorities of secular society. As if he had become WATCH's trumpet Abp Rowan commented after the vote: The Church of England has "a lot of explaining to do" to the church and to wider society after its rejection of legislation ... In a strongly worded speech to the General Synod [he] warned that the failure of the vote in the house of laity on Tuesday had made the church's governing body appear "wilfully blind" to the priorities of secular society. "We have – to put it very bluntly – a lot of explaining to do," he said. "Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday … the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society."

It would have been understandable if these comments had come from WATCH but coming from a world-renowned theologian they are incredible. If the early church had been guided by the trends and priorities of wider society at the time there would be no church for them to meddle with.


  1. "It would have been understandable if these comments had come from WATCH but coming from a world-renowned theologian they are incredible."

    Perhaps the scales have fallen from my eyes over recent weeks, but I now no longer find that as incredible as undoubtedly I once would - only seeing in it yet more evidence of the Janus-like monster that is contemporary liberal Anglicanism. It is small wonder that our ecumenical partners are rapidly disengaging from any meaningful dialogue...

  2. It is exactly what we are getting - a career for female social workers in fancy dress.